The Write Perspective: Kill the Queen

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Book Description:

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

 

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, intense sword/magic battle scenes, splash of romance

Review: This book easily pulled me in with the promise of being somewhere between Gladiators and Game of Thrones.  And the author didn’t lie, but now I love the book so much that I don’t like comparisons because it’s a beast to be reckoned with all on its own.  Estep created a wonderful world with its own unique laws to magic.  People are born as magiers, masters, or mutts – a decreasing ability with magic as you go down the list.  Our main character, Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair, is on the “Winter” side of a Summer/Winter strong family bloodline.  When we meet her, she is a mutt through and through, but even then, we know something is up.

For me, a good book starts with the main character.  This sounds simple enough, but think of how many books are ruined by nonsensical characters.  Or ones whose all their problems could be solved if they only communicated.

But Evie didn’t let me down.  She grew up in a world where she was seventeenth in line for the throne.  Her parents were brutally massacred, and she was thrown into the queen’s castle where everyone is only out for themselves, desperate for a chance to win favor with the queen or crown princess (who I’ll get into later).  As someone who has walls up for various reasons, even when I desperately wanted her to say something she didn’t or share a secret she kept to herself, I understood why she didn’t.  Her character arc throughout the book is powerful, but also realistic.  She doesn’t trust people who haven’t earned it.  She’s as desperate for real friendship as she is terrified of it.  The only thing better than the fantastical world already set up by Estep was how character-driven this plot was.

The only character just as important as the hero is the villain.  And boy does this book have a good set of villains.  From the moment I met Vasilia, I wanted her blood.  I chanted the book’s title in my head as a mantra.  Kill the queen.  She’s a common case of someone spoiled rotten their whole life whose impatience and greed are her (and her kingdom’s) downfall.  “Her kingdom” and “her people” are not even close to being synonymous in her mind.  She’s the type of person that Littlefinger from Game of Thrones would love to meet, because she has all the greed and power with none of the mind power.  But instead of Littlefinger, we get Maeven.  Although she’s more in the background, Evie quickly realizes she’s the puppeteer.  Even though she doesn’t have the background with Evie to make us hate her and get the mob mentality for her death, she’s just as easy to want dead as Vasilia.

This book did all the big things right – world building, main characters, character arcs – but what really sealed the deal for me was the minor characters and their subplots.  The Black Swan gladiator troupe gave me multiple characters that I became very invested in.  The romance with Lucas Sullivan, the troupe’s trainer who has a past as complicated as Evie’s.  Splashed in the background giving you intimidate moments but leaving you desperate for more.  Serilda Swanson, owner of the Black Swans and ex-personal guard to the queen who is desperate for any Blair to be on the throne but Vasilia.  Xenia, the ogre dance instructor with an agenda of her own.  Paloma, Black Swan champion and brilliant fighter who has almost just as much reason to have trust issues as Evie.

I could go on and on about this book (and would love to in the comments below).  I can’t say enough times how much I would recommend this book.

Summer queens are fine and fair, with pretty ribbons and flowers in their hair.  Winter queens are cold and hard, with frosted crowns made of icy shards.

Overall Rating: 5 stars

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The Witch’s March: History Fact #6

Heinrich Himmler served Hitler as Nazi SS chief during World War II.  He was fascinated with the idea of occultic, dark magic.  Since the end of the war, his leading the Nazis towards these beliefs made for numerous books, films, and television shows.  The Witch’s March is no different… Urban legends still swirl around Himmler and his beliefs, and many of these stories and theories border on fantasy.  Despite Himmler being the most famous fanatic, there is actually a great deal of evidence that Hitler and his inner circle were very interested in mysticism and dark magic.

Himmler reportedly believed that the occult was the key to Aryan supremacy. As he grew in power and prominence within the German high command, his obsession with the mystic and arcane only increased more and more. He became fascinated by ancient history, but twisted it to fit his own needs and cause.

Not only was he interested in lost civilizations and distant ancestors – some of whom he tried to contact through seances – but he even started seeing his SS officers as a form of holy knights, similar to the Templar and Teutonic orders.

He was not alone in this, of course. Himmler was only one of many Nazi’s who collected books relating to matters of the occult. However, it is generally recognized that Himmler was particularly influenced by this movement. His beliefs influenced the way that he ran the SS and possibly are the reason for their extreme brutality during the war.

A 13,000-volume library – collected by Himmler – was found in a depot of the National Library of Czech Republic near Prague. The depot had not been accessed since the 1950’s.

Bjørn Helge, Norwegian Masonic researcher, told Verdens Gang (a Norwegian newspaper) that some of the books were seized from the Norwegian Order of Freemasons in Oslo during Nazi occupation of the country. Himmler had many occult books taken from countries occupied by the Germans.

Himmler founded the H Sonderkommando in 1935. The ‘H’ stood for ‘Hexe’ which is the German word for ‘witch.’ Their mission was to collect as much information as possible on sorcery, the occult and the supernatural.

In The Witch’s March series, we follow the brutality of Himmler through one of his (fictional) knights, Ehrhart König.  He sees the power of blood magic from our protagonist, and like any good villain, decides he wants it for himself.  For that very reason, though, blood magic isn’t what it’s often made out to be.  It’s a weapon that can be used by both sides – good and evil.  Magic is all about perception…

The Witch’s March Set Ebook Cover Reveal

“The more blood that is spilled, the more powerful she becomes… and there is plenty to spare in the middle of a war.”
 
Harriet Lange is daughter to one of the most powerful wizards in the world. His traditionally chauvinistic values forced her to secretly Bind to Blood magic and teach herself everything she knows, but the rarity of her forbidden powers make her that much more formidable on the battlefield.
 
Edwin Wright is loyal to a rivaling coven. He is the best pilot the British have to offer and a master of the elements. Thrown into leading a mismatched crew, he must find a way for their team to defy all odds and save enchanted prisoners of war before the enemy’s experiments weaponize their magic.
 
Albert Thys is an axe-wielding dwarf with a mind for explosives. His trust is hard to earn, but fierce once won. Having lost his family to a German air strike, he is boiling with the need for revenge. With dragons and airplanes both dominating the skies, his flair for bomb engineering proves more valuable than gold.
 
Rada Medved is a Russian Night Witch, and one of Germany’s greatest threats from the east. Having lived all of her life in the skies, she’s more than ready for her chance at combat.  Fighting skepticism and sexual harassment on the ground, she breathes in freedom and vengeance in the night skies when she takes down the Nazis one plane at a time.
War is inevitable. Death is coming. The only question is: will you hide, or will you fight?
Help the author raise money for the series now!  Donations can earn you exclusive bookmarks, signed copies of the books, and more!  Funds will go towards book tours, Amazon ads, book covers, and more.

A Wild Tomorrow: A Podcast

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Alexander Supertramp

 

I apologize about my lack of updates recently.  But I’m happy to say it’s because I’ve been busy: completed one novel and halfway through another.  If all keeps going well, I should definitely be on track to publish my new trilogy, The Witch’s March, next year.  And then also as you know the holidays… what time hasn’t been taken by my work has been spent happily in the company of family.  Whatever holidays you celebrate, if any at all, I hope were happy and warm!

As you all know, I am a strong advocate for seeking adventures both on pages and off.  Back in college, I was surrounded by business-minded people who were passionate about finding their jobs with the best firms where they could climb themselves to corporate success.  I really admired them, and still do.  To give you my attitude when I was amongst them, I think it’s easiest to explain via my ‘littles’ within my business fraternity.  One of them a New Business Account Executive for Google in New York City, and the other is an aspiring actor in Los Angeles.

Dylan Pritchett served on my pledge class’s executive board with me, and he stayed active in the fraternity with me as well.  Yet, somehow, through our almost three years of knowing each other, I never knew his real dreams.  I think that we were just in an environment that told you if it wasn’t a tradition 9 to 5 job, you weren’t going to succeed.  And while I would never tell any of you what to do with your life, I would encourage you to not limit yourself to others’ expectations.  Getting that waitressing or receptionist job so you can work less hours and focus on the bigger, better dream is not a bad choice.  It’s not belittling; it’s inspiring.

A Wild Tomorrow is a platform dedicated to helping ordinary people achieve their extraordinary dreams.  Whatever they may be, Dylan wants to help you find your purpose, achieve your dreams, and live your life the way you’ve always wanted to.  On your own terms.  Not in 5 or 10 years.  Today.  He offers multiple methods for you learn, including both a podcast and a blog.  His learnings aren’t limited to just one type of help either: he offers advice on keeping your mental health strong, coin in your bank account, and happiness at the center of everything.

Finding your dream is like finding a mountain.  You can see its beauty already, but know that the further you climb, the better it’ll be.  Start that climb today, and let A Wild Tomorrow give you the tools you need to make the climb just a bit easier, and the journey just that more enjoyable.

The Witch’s March: Sneak Peek

Prologue: Afternoon Visitors

23 August 1914

            The only sounds in Mons were of bullet-fire and death.  Hattie had done what she was supposed to and continued healing injured soldiers at her post, even when hearing the Germans had first started their offensive at dawn.  Since the very first bomb went off that morning, there was one worry echoing around in her skull: Joey was out there, and he could die while she sat in the background.  Now finally in the city with him, Hattie was more determined than ever to do her part at the front-line and save her brother.  As she reached the back line, she stole away soldiers’ confusion at seeing a woman walking towards the danger before deciding they didn’t have the time to deal with her.  They were forcing young children out of women’s arms that refused to leave the city.  She walked with relaxed shoulders and purposeful strides, trying to keep her face down away from possibly prying eyes.

The blood of the dead flowed through her, fueling her magic despite the grief it struck.  She let it settle into her as a familiar warmth as her eyes scanned through face after face for Joey. Surviving commanders shouted orders of retreat from the closest salient.  They definitely wouldn’t direct her further into their battle.  She ignored them and walked on.

“You there – nurse.”  Of course, people were bound to question a five-ten woman in the middle of a war zone eventually.  She turned to a white-mustached British officer with a large nose and tired eyes.  “How did you get this far into the city?  You need to evacuate now.”

“I’m not in the military, nor am I one of the queen’s subjects, so I’m afraid you don’t get to tell me to leave,” Hattie said.  She shifted her pocket knife out of her sleeve and reached it underneath her low bun to the never fully healed scar there, slicing into the thick skin.  The magic bled out of her like a boiling kettle, furnished by the climbing number of hundreds of corpses around her.  It was nearly overkill to do a simple distraction skill.

The officer walked towards his men to continue shouting orders, and she continued forward on her search.  She knew he was there; she could feel him. With her spell, he would walk right past her if she didn’t stop him.

Now at the front line, with only stacks of sandbags protecting them from the Germans, she found it harder to hide her desperation.  Where was her brother?

The gunfire was ringing, forcing her to put her hands over her ears as she looked around.  The power flowing from the blood in her small cut was dizzying.  When she spun around to turn down another street, she nearly sobbed when she saw him.  He was leaning against one of the shorter stacks of bags, gun in hand as he peaked around the line.

“Joey!” she shouted, hurrying towards him.  His chocolate brown hair was buzzed short to his scalp, his mustache surrounded by growing scruff.  Bags drooped deep under his red-rimmed eyes, and his uniform wasn’t as crisp as he normally kept it.  At her touch, her spell’s power over him broke, and he jumped at seeing her so close, barrel aimed in between her eyes.  She didn’t blink.  “Joey, we have to hold them off.”

“Hat– what the f– what are you doing here?” he asked, his grip immediately tight around her bicep.  “You have to get out of here!”

“Don’t be an idiot, Joey.  Guns clearly aren’t enough to hold off the Germans.  Together, we can do it.”

“You’re the one being an idiot.  Get the hell out of here!” he said, pushing her back away from the sandbags.  “It’s not safe–”

Hattie didn’t distinguish the shot from the constant barrage of bullets, but it struck through her brother’s back all the same.  His eyes widened, and he didn’t look away as he swayed.  An animalistic scream erupted from her throat as she hurried to catch him.  No, she just found him – they were supposed to be safe together.

He looked down at where the bullet had come out through his chest, the blood seeping through his uniform as the men around her suddenly noticed the pair.  She pressed her hand into the wound, the red warm against her palm as she began to whisper her healing spell.

Men started shouting and trying to pull her off of him.  She wouldn’t let them. She couldn’t.  Her spell wasn’t finished.

Joey coughed in a way that shattered her heart as a soldier pulled them both further behind cover.  He looked up at her as the men surrounded him, his mouth twitching into a smile before he completely collapsed.

His smile stayed frozen in place as the men lowered to the ground.  Their attention only on him for another brief moment before one of them pronounced him dead.

Hattie fell to her knees as the world was torn from beneath her.  Other soldiers grabbed her by the arms and began to drag her away, but he shook them off with a scream.  She tried to crawl towards him, but they wouldn’t let her.  Everything spun around her, except him.  As she looked at his body laying there perfectly still, she knew she was too late.

The chaos around her echoed back into words – men shouting orders of retreat.  Two men held either of her arms as they finally pulled her back, her eyes locked helplessly on her brother’s corpse.  Hattie growled before elbowing one of her captors in the gut, making him drop her.  Using all her weight, she swung to punch the other right in the nose.  It crunched beneath her fist, his blood pouring out to add fuel to her already raging fire.  She pried his hand from her arm before spinning around and scurrying back to her brother.

His blood was her blood, and it spiraled through her like a shot of heroin.  She nearly glowed with magic trying to burst through her skin, and it mixed with her anger until her entire body boiled with rage.

She ripped open his shirt, smearing his blood onto her fingers before tracing it on her forehead in a triangle.  Heaven. Hell. Earth.

Her kin’s blood rippled through her like a tidal wave.  Hattie ignored the shouting from the frightened men and walked out from behind the safety of their walls.

Before any Germans could realize what was happening, she released her power like a machine gun.  It shot across the streets in a stinging breeze, followed by silence as the temperature plummeted to freezing.

A single shot fired, and Hattie grunted as a bullet struck her in the shoulder.  She cried out and stumbled but refused to fall, her blood singing her skin red as it soaked into her shirt.

Her hand cradled the wound as she stayed firmly rooted in place, her spell a whisper in the Germans’ ears.  Her voice came from everywhere, ringing around them like a hissing snake – but the spell wasn’t meant for them.

A mist crept from the shadows, and in its haze stood the ghosts of men.  Listening to the call to follow the witch’s march.

Instead of guns, these ghosts held bows.  Their pointed helmets faded in and out, the red crosses on their tunics sliding away like melting paint.  Hattie didn’t care to know which century they were from, and she didn’t care.  Her only concern was if they were as bloodthirsty as the day they died.

Her chanting grew louder, bouncing around the city’s walls as she beckoned the undead forward.  She cried out to them, and they responded by raising their bows.

Arrows shot through the streets like bullets, Hattie taking a fresh breath as she heard the thuds of German bodies falling to the ground.  She had never killed a man before, but she had no regret or hesitation.  One of those men killed her brother, and since she couldn’t be sure which one, she’d have to play it safe and kill them all.

Hattie opened her mouth to shout the order, but it was as if the ghost soldiers could hear her thoughts.  They attacked her brother’s killers mercilessly, gliding through the streets as hundreds of arrows clouded the skies.  More and more of her enemies fell, and she bathed in the power of their blood.

“Look, it’s angels!  God is on our side!” she heard a Brit shout.  No, it wasn’t Him this time, but she didn’t mind giving Him the credit.

A bullet tore into her stomach, and she let out an unexpected yelp of pain.  Hattie pressed into the wound as the blood soaked her uniform in warm, crimson stains, both giving and taking her strength all at once.  She looked around as her soldiers persisted, arrow after arrow flying towards the enemy line, but the Germans were still advancing.  It looked as though even angels couldn’t stop the Devil when they were already in Hell.

Another bullet buried into her leg, and she fell to the ground.  Her archers continued their assault but crowded in front of her, forming a visible barrier for her even if the bullets would just fly through them.  She had done her part, at least for now.  Hattie crawled back towards the British line as her archers continued their assault.

It was clear that Hattie couldn’t win this battle, but she’d be damned if she lost the Great War.  A fellow Ally ran towards her, shouting nonsensical insults as he put her arm around him for support.  Her mind screamed that she wasn’t done yet – there was still more revenge to be reaped – but her body had completely given up.  Her legs sagged, and her Ally held most of her weight as he dragged her into retreat.  She looked back one last time at her brother as the soldier pulled her away towards safety.

No, she wasn’t done yet.  Haste me to know ‘t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.

~*~

            The battle had taken nearly the entire day, but as the sun began its descent in the sky, at long last the Germans could finally claim victory.  They were to move west soon, but no soldier would miss the opportunity to scavenge the dead for supplies.  Fresh boots, ammunition, and sometimes even hidden snacks were too valuable.

Victory or no, the men were all still unnerved from what had happened.  They argued over what they had seen.  Some imagined they were angels, while others said they must’ve been demons.  A few lunatics even claimed some witch bitch had resurrected them from the dead.

Generaloberst König, this one’s alive!” a German cadet shouted.

The colonel general turned to the voice, and the cadet’s face paled, for half of his commander’s face was burned so deeply he could see the actual muscles tick within his jaw.  The story was that König’s latest encounter with an Element Focuser had left him with half of his face and one less eye, but hearing about it and seeing it were two entirely different matters.

Colonel General König walked over to his shouting subordinate and looked down at the muttering soldier.  It looked as though the shot had just missed his heart; less than an inch to the left, and they would be dealing with another corpse instead of a potential prisoner.

An American, and by his smell, also a wizard.  The colonel general smiled.  How long had he waited for this chance?  “Get this man a doctor.  I need him alive.